Speak English Around Town » LESSON 23 - Running Late

Running Late

Anna apologizes for being late to a meeting. Rich is angry that shes late, but their colleague Kyle suggests they stop discussing it and start the meeting.

Anna: I'm sorry I'm late. I hope I didn't hold up the meeting.

Rich: We've all been here since 9 o'clock. We've been waiting here for half an hour!

Anna: I'm sorry to keep you waiting.

Rich: Anna, I'm onto you. You're always late!

Anna: I was meeting with a client across town and that meeting ran over.

Rich: It's always one excuse after another with you, Anna. We've all got busy schedules.

Kyle: Rich, don't make a mountain out of a molehill. Anna apologized for being late.

Rich: Next time you're running late, give me a head's up, I believe you have my phone number.

Anna: I didn't realize that being 20 minutes late was going to be such a big deal.

Kyle: I suggest we get the ball rolling. We're already running behind.

Anna: Good idea!

  • across town
    on the other side of town
    Example: The restaurant you suggested is across town. Can you recommend someplace closer?
  • big deal
    a problem; an issue
    Example: When Paul's pipes leaked and his kitchen flooded, it was a big deal.
  • (to) get the ball rolling
    to get started
    Example: Emily and Tracy came up with a great idea for a new business, but they're not sure how to get the ball rolling.
  • (to) give someone a head's up
    to let someone know in advance
    Example: Let me give you a head's up. Ben is going to be calling you later this week for some career advice.
  • (to) hold up
    to delay
    Example: If I'm not at your office at 11, please don't hold up the meeting. I'll come as soon as I can.
  • It's always one excuse after another with you
    you never take the blame for things, instead you give an excuse
    Example: Last night you couldn't clean up after dinner because you had homework. Tonight, you can't clean up because you have soccer practice. It's always one excuse after another with you.
  • (to) keep someone waiting
    to be late for an appointment, causing the person you are meeting with to wait
    Example: I'm a few minutes late. Sorry to keep you waiting.
  • (to) make a mountain out of a molehill
    to make a big deal out of something small; to get upset about a small issue
    Example: I already apologized for forgetting to deposit the check. Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.
  • (to be) onto someone
    to be aware of someone's behavior; to be suspicious of someone about something
    Example: I know Bill spends half his day on job search websites. I'm onto him.
  • (to) run behind
    to be behind schedule
    Example: The hair stylist told me she was running behind because her previous client showed up 20 minutes late.
  • (to) run late
    to be late; to start something later than scheduled
    Example: I'm calling my boss to tell her I'm running late and won't be in the office until 9:30.
  • (to) run over
    to last longer than scheduled (referring to meetings, interviews, etc.)
    Example: The meeting ran over by 15 minutes.
Practice the Expressions

Choose the most appropriate response to the following:

  1. Let's get started with the presentations now instead of waiting for everybody to show up.
    • a) Yes, let's hold up the meeting for everybody.
    • b) Good thinking. We should plan on running late today.
    • c) Good idea. It's time to get the ball rolling.
  2. Do you think it'll take us 45 minutes to get to the restaurant?
    • a) Yes, it's a big deal.
    • b) Yes, we' re running behind.
    • c) Yes, it's across town.
  3. This meeting was supposed to end at 3 and it's already 3:30.
    • a) So we won't be running behind today.
    • b) So we won't be running over.
    • c) So we've already run over by half an hour.
  4. Just to let you know, the company president will be dropping by our offices at 4:30 today.
    • a) Okay, thanks for giving me a head's up.
    • b) Okay, thanks for getting the ball rolling.
    • c) Okay, maybe he'll be running behind.
  5. Julia showed up two hours late this morning, and she was wearing a very nice suit.
    • a) It's always one excuse after another with her.
    • b) I'm onto her. She's looking for another job.
    • c) Thanks for getting the ball rolling.
  6. My meeting lasted an hour longer than I expected.
    • a) So you must be running behind now.
    • b) So you must be running over now.
    • c) So you must be getting the ball rolling now.
  7. I'm upset. You had lunch with our boss, and you didn't invite me?
    • a) That's right. I'm onto you.
    • b) It's always one excuse after another with you.
    • c) Please don't make a mountain out of a molehill.
  8. I'm calling to let you know I'll be a little late to our meeting.
    • a) Thanks for letting me know you're running late.
    • b) Thanks for getting the ball rolling.
    • c) Thanks for running over by 30 minutes.
  9. Yesterday I was late because my car broke down. Today I was late because my alarm clock broke.
    • a) Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.
    • b) It's always one excuse after another with you.
    • c) I'm glad you gave me a head's up.
  10. Finally! You're 25 minutes late for our meeting.
    • a) Sorry to keep you waiting.
    • b) Sorry you're running behind.
    • c) Sorry you're running over.
Answer Key
Practice The Expressions
  1. c
  2. c
  3. c
  4. a
  5. b
  6. a
  7. c
  8. a
  9. b
  10. a
Answer Key
Language Lens: For/Since

Since and for both introduce periods of time.

=> Since refers to the time period when something began. Use since when referring to a specific time period, time of day, or date:
since 1995
since 11 a.m. yesterday
since last year
since the Renaissance

Examples with since:
We've been living in Chicago since 1996. (specific time = since)
I've been in Paris since last Monday, and I'm leaving tomorrow. (specific time = since)
Jen has been watching TV since 5 o'clock. (specific time = since)
Note: You will never use since + ago. We've been running this business since last year. (NOT: since one year ago)

=> For is used to express the duration (or length) of the activity.
for two years
for an hour
for decades

Examples with for:
We have been living in Chicago for ten years. (duration = for)
I'll be in Paris for a week. (duration = for)
I'll be out of the office for several hours. (duration = for)

Common expressions with since and for:
Joan has been studying Chinese for ages, and she still doesn't speak it well! ( for ages = for a very long time)
We'll be staying in this apartment for the time being. ( for the time being = for now; for a while)
Since when do you wear perfume to school? ( since when = When did you start doing that?)
Ever since you told me that Cindy likes to gossip, I haven't told her anything. (ever since = starting when; since the time when)

Quick Quiz

Fill in the blank with the missing word:

  1. Michelle has been studying Spanish _____ five years.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  2. Roger has had the flu _____ last Wednesday and hasn't been able to go to work.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  3. Paul will be studying at Harvard _____ another semester.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  4. I haven't been to St. Petersburg _____ 2004.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  5. Greg has worked at Dell _____ ten years.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  6. Hank's Electronics has been in business _____ 1969.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  7. Juan has lived in the United States _____ five years.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  8. Bob has been in London _____ last Tuesday.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  9. I'll be out of the office _____ 10 days.
    • a) since
    • b) for
  10. _____ when did you start wearing jeans to work?
    • a) Since
    • b) For
Answer Key
  1. b
  2. a
  3. b
  4. a
  5. b
  6. a
  7. b
  8. a
  9. b
  10. a
Answer Key
Favorite Books

If you already speak some English and now would like to speak more like a native, “Speak English Like an American” will help you. One of the keys to speaking like a native is the ability to use and understand casual expressions, or idioms. American English is full of idioms. Speak English Like an American will help you understand and use idioms better. It contains over 300 of today's most common idioms.

Read more